Baking in the afternoon: rum, raisin and apple loaf

Remember when I told you last month that I had left my job to focus on new things? Well, it hasn’t quite worked out that way yet. Any of you who have overseen the hiring process will know just how long it can take to advertise a position, gather CVs, conduct interviews, find the right candidate and get them in. So while my colleagues wait for my replacement’s first day, I’m plugging the gap by doing more or less my old job – only this time from home as a freelancer.

While it’s not what I expected I’d be doing with my time, it’s a happy state of affairs. Work is so much more enjoyable when you don’t have to go to the office! I never thought I’d be the sort of person who could work well at home – I thought I’d be endlessly distracted by laundry, the newspaper, making dinner, that errand that I really should run, the television… Surprisingly I haven’t found this to be the case. With BBC Radio 2 and a coffee for company, I’m amazed at the tasks I can get through with amounts of speed and focus I didn’t know I possessed. The calm and quiet certainly helps, along with the fact that almost no one in the organisation knows my phone number 🙂

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While I’ve been pleasantly surprised by my home work ethic, the beauty of home working is that your hours are generally flexible, and during the day you can run that errand, or throw laundry in the machine, or accept a parcel delivery – or bake a cake. Which is what I did the other day as I waited to hear back from a colleague about something or other. This moist and gutsy loaf cake, although it was suggested in a newspaper column as part of a dinner menu, says afternoon to me. With a 3pm cup of tea and a quick flick through a magazine, it’s perfect for taking a well-earned break from work.

Rum, Raisin and Apple Loaf
Adapted from Lucy Waverman’s Weekend Menu column
This makes a very large loaf – make sure your pan is large enough or the batter will spill over the sides during baking. You could also add half a cup of chopped dried apple to the batter, at the same time as the fresh apple and raisins. Consider making this the day before you want to serve it – the flavour of this cake really improves on day two.

3 Tbsp dark rum or brandy
2 Tbsp water
1/2 cup raisins
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp grated lemon rind
2 large eggs
1 cup applesauce
1 apple, peeled and diced
2 Tbsp brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 F / 175 C. Grease and flour a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

Combine the rum (or brandy) and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the raisins, bring to a very gentle simmer and simmer for 2 or 3 minutes, until the raisins are plump and flavourful and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Set aside.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a handheld mixer, cream together the butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl between additions. With the mixer on low, add half of the flour mixture, then half of the apple sauce, then repeat. Add the raisins (and any remaining liquid) and diced apple, and mix until everything is just combined.

Spoon the batter into the pan and sprinkle the brown sugar over top. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a knife inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean. Let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.